Parents pay tribute to Durham student who died in nightclub crush

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent
Olivia Burt’s parents said they were ‘totally devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful daughter’. Photograph: Handout/Durham constabulary/PA

The parents of a student who died in a crush outside a Durham nightclub have said they are “totally devastated and heartbroken” by the loss of their “beautiful daughter”.

Olivia Burt, 20, suffered fatal head injuries during a crowd surge as people queued to get into the packed Missoula nightclub last Wednesday.

Hundreds of students took part in a private candlelit vigil in the courtyard of Durham castle on Monday night attended by Burt’s parents and reserved for those who knew her.

Olivia’s parents, from Hampshire, released a statement paying tribute to their daughter, who was in her first year at Durham University, where she was studying natural sciences.

They said: “We are totally devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Olivia. She was a wonderful young woman and our words cannot truly express how much we miss her.

“We request that we be allowed to grieve in private and will not be releasing any further statements.”

A joint investigation into the circumstances surrounding Olivia’s death has been launched by Durham Constabulary and Durham county council.

The incident happened during on Durham’s busiest student night when several hundred people are thought to have been queuing outside the popular Missoula club just before midnight.

Witnesses have described how they were “at the mercy of the crowd” when a group of people pushed into the main queue to get into Missoula, causing a glass barrier to fall and smash as students fell on top.

Students who were stood close to Burt at the time have said there had been many more students than usual due to the front entrance of the club being closed, meaning everyone had to wait round the back.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour MP for the city of Durham, has said she had raised concerns as long ago as 2007 about nightlife in Walkergate, a development that has become a popular drinking spot since it opened in late 2006.

On Monday police said they had spoken to a large number of people who had been in the area but appealed for those who were nearest to Olivia at the time of the tragedy to come forward.

DI Andy Smith, of Durham constabulary’s major crime team, said: “This was a tragic incident and the whole focus of our investigation at this time is to find out exactly what happened to Olivia.

“We have now spoken to a large number of people who were there on the night, both those working in the area and those who were queueing to get into the nightclub.

“Officers have also examined CCTV footage from the scene showing the moments leading up to the incident.

“We appreciate there were potentially several hundred people outside the premises, but we are appealing for witnesses to come forward from among those who were closest to Olivia at the time of the incident and saw what took place.”